Microsoft Translator Blog

Microsoft helps translate your Arabic conversations face-to-face or across the globe

Microsoft helps translate your Arabic conversations face-to-face or across the globe Today, Microsoft Translator adds Modern Standard Arabic to its list of conversation languages for speech-to-speech translation. Whether you are using Skype Translator to communicate across distances or the Microsoft Translator apps on Android or iOS to communicate face to face, we continue to help break the language barrier by allowing you to translate Arabic conversations into seven languages (Chinese Mandarin, English, French, German, Italian, Brazilian Portuguese, and Spanish).

Modern Standard Arabic (MSA) is used in the Middle East and Northern Africa as a standard form of the Arabic language. Unlike dialects which may vary greatly from country to country, MSA is used throughout the Arab-speaking world in written and formal communication such as media, higher education, and government. Although rarely used informally, most native Arabic speakers are familiar with MSA.

Arabic is a complex language for which to develop speech recognition and translation technologies. Microsoft has invested in worldwide research centers for many years and in this case, our Natural Language Processing researchers in our Advanced Technology Laboratory in Cairo, Egypt took the lead in developing this new language system. After months of limited progress with speech recognition quality, the researchers were able to find innovative approaches that allowed them to dramatically reduce the Word Error Rate (WER, a typical industry measure for speech recognition quality).

“Knowing how popular Skype and Microsoft Translator are for Arabic speakers, we were very excited to improve the quality for Arabic conversations and to be a key part of the speech-to-speech translation project,” said Mohamed Afify, principal researcher in our Cairo Lab. “To achieve this we, for instance, gathered data from talk shows or social media to enrich both our speech recognition and translation models”

Speech translation from and to Modern Standard Arabic is now available worldwide, including:

  • Connecting with people around the world in Skype Translator for Windows desktop. Additionally, you can use Skype to translate your IMs into any of the 50+ languages, including Arabic.
  • Translating face-to-face conversations with the Microsoft Translator apps for iPhone and Android into any of the other seven conversation languages. The app can be used with your phone or combined with your Apple or Android watch for an even more natural experience. The app can still be used to translate text or short utterance to all 50+ languages supported by Microsoft Translator.
  • Integrating speech-based text (such as transcripts) translation in your workflow or app. This release improves the quality of these translations through the “speech” general category. This can be used in all category ID-enabled Microsoft Translator products, such as Office apps for PowerPoint and Word, Document Translator, Multilingual App Toolkit, on-premises versions of SharePoint, and many translation memory tools from our partners. As a developer, you can also use the speech general category in your app or website.

In addition to being added as a conversation language, Arabic image translation now also is available for Windows 10 and Windows Phone 8 and 10 apps, and as a downloadable language pack for Microsoft Translator on Android.

  • Image translation, launched for Windows and Windows phone in 2010, lets you translate text from your camera rather than by typing the text. Image translation is great for translating signs, menus, and flyers. Arabic will also be added to image translation in the Translator apps for iOS and Android soon.
  • The downloadable language pack for Android is the world’s first Deep Neural Network-powered offline translation engine. By downloading it for free, users can get near online-quality translations for any of Microsoft Translator’s supported languages, even when they are not connected to the Internet. Language packs are great for situations where Internet access is unavailable or cost prohibitive, such as when international roaming charges would apply. Offline language packs, including support for Arabic, will be available for iOS soon. An offline language pack to translate between Arabic and English for the Translator apps for Windows and Windows Phone is already available.

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